We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Another Brexit bonus

A powerful cross-party group of MPs today warns Theresa May that Brexit is “sucking the life” out of her government – as cabinet sources admit that the crisis is forcing vital domestic business off the government’s timetable.

And the problem is?

Who gave them the power to do this?

Watchdog bans ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes in adverts

Protection from double jeopardy

So Theresa May has survived the vote of confidence by her fellow Tory MPs. If nothing else the relief that she must feel knowing that Conservative Party rules mean that she cannot be challenged again as leader until a year has gone by should give her a lively appreciation of exactly what is wrong with the much-touted idea of a second referendum.

Samizdata quote of the day

“But though feted and exploited by questionable allies, Solzhenitsyn should be remembered for his role as a truth-teller. He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees.”

Michael Scammell, on a writer and survivor of Soviet brutality, and who was born on Dec 11, 1918. So on a day after what would have been his centenary birthday, let’s celebrate his birth.

Money without Kings

It appears that Kenya has some something surprisingly sane: it has decided to remove portraits of real people, especially politicians, from its currency.

At one time, policy in the United States was quite similar; anthropomorphic representations of abstract concepts (like “liberty”) were the only human images permitted on government produced money. Then, slowly, the inevitable happened, and politicians began to be deified by putting the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and the rest on coins and bills.

I think the notion that senior politicians are not, in fact, kings and emperors, and ought not be the subject of secular worship, remembered with expensive public memorials, put onto money, have bridges and airports named after them, etc., is a rational one, and I hope that it someday becomes much more widespread.

Voyager 2 leaves* the heliosphere

NASA have announced that Voyager 2 left the heliosphere on 5th November 2018 (*albeit the exact scope of the heliosphere is vague). A dramatic drop in solar particles leaves Voyager 2, the first of the Voyagers to launch, but the slower and hence second to leave our solar system, whizzing off into interstellar space at 34,000 mph with a stack of Plutonium on board, the next planet is some 40,000 years away. It is now around 11,000,000,000 miles from Earth.

Voyager 2 left Earth on 20th August 1977, 16 days before Voyager 1, four days after Elvis died. Since then, probably over half the people on Earth have been born. France was yet to use the guillotine for the last time (well, pending further changes). Jimmy Carter was striving to be the worst US President in living memory. Concorde was yet to start scheduled services from London to New York. And the Queen was celebrating her Silver Jubilee.

In the world of popular music, ABBA were at their zenith. British Leyland were making Austin Allegros, David Owen was Jim Callaghan’s Foreign Secretary, planning no doubt for Ceausescu’s 1978 State Visit, when Madame Ceausescu was fêted by the Royal Institute of Chemistry. The accursed, groaning slave empire (h/t the late Auberon Waugh) we called the Soviet Union, was yet to invade Afghanistan, by then a ‘progressive’ republic, not yet wholly in Brezhnev’s warm embrace. And next door, the Shah still ruled in Iran. And the European Economic Community, having digested the UK, Ireland and Denmark, was working on welcoming recently democratic Greece by 1981 (Good call, that).

Coming back to the Voyagers, let’s pay tribute to the fantastic engineering of 1970s NASA in building a flying nuclear reactor so tough and durable that it can still run a probe some 41 years later, and the fantastic trajectories of the craft. Still sending back signals at 20 Watts, over 16 light hours away. A gallery of Voyager images is here.

The sheer scale of the Voyager journeys brings to mind the Total Perspective Vortex of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Perhaps, and I speculate wildly, the true purpose of the Voyager missions was to scour the Solar System for signs of something specific, and not found on Earth. They are both still searching, quixotically and heroically, and in the spirit of scientific enquiry, if not for signs of alien life, then perhaps for Theresa May’s integrity.

Are we watching ignorant armies clash by (saturday and) night?

When the Tea Partiers were called ignorant racist deplorables back in Obama’s day, they knew it was not true, even if some of them could not well articulate that knowledge in the face of “I’m with the media, screw you” PC questioning. They knew they left demo sites cleaner than when they arrived. They knew that illegal immigration was, well, illegal. They knew that, if they liked their doctor, they’d not been able to keep their doctor. And they knew that the statist solutions Obama loved have a very poor record (see e.g. Socialism, Experience of).

When the Brexitters were called islamophobic little-englanders ignorant of basic economics in the modern age, they had very good reason to think it was not true, even if some of them could not well articulate that knowledge in the face of a “we know best” media and establishment. They knew the UK economy had functioned outside the EU well within living memory. They knew their distaste at Rotherham was not a mere phobia. They could see many predictions of Project Fear were so wild as to discredit it. And they knew that taking back control was itself a benefit (see e.g. Liberty, Value of).

Now we have the yellow vests (Gilets Jaunes) in France. They have a lot of grievances, but the spark that lit their explosion was Macron’s eco-tax, to save the planet from Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Now, I know AGW is pseudo-science.

– I’m confident we’ll do OK after Brexit, but I know the notorious hockey stick was made when ‘scientists’ – deceitful, but also too ignorant of statistics to understand what they were doing – fitted their data like a policeman fitting-up a suspect (take the recalcitrant dataset into a dark room with some statistical tools; when you emerge, the dataset is moaning, “OK, OK, I confirm the hypothesis – just don’t separate my principal components again and I’ll say anything!!!”).

– I suspect the Brexit-day Calais traffic jam may be hardly worse than the jam the yellow-vests caused at the French-Italian border, but I know those scientists saw the post-fit line dipping back down to the pre-fit level (like an intimidated witness trying to drop a hint), yet refused even to think about what it was trying to tell them and instead (in the sole manipulation where they understood exactly what they were doing) scaled the graph to hide the decline.

What I don’t know is whether the Gilets Jaunes know this. I have bits of paper from known-name universities and later employments that credential me to talk about statistics, science, etc. The Gilets Jaunes don’t, so I can believe they are not well able to articulate it when faced with the arrogance of “we’re the experts”. However, they may have noticed how often we’ve passed some deadline to save the planet. They may sense that Macron is just another intellectual-without-intellect whose belief in AGW is clueless and self-serving. The Gilets Jaunes resentment that the price of saving the planet is always paid by them, never their ‘betters’, may lead them to ask why the oh-so-articulate eco-warriors don’t act like they believe it.

So, as regards global warming, I’m ready to credit the Gilets Jaunes with having a better ratio of sense to selfishness than the eco-EUrocrats. I’m just amused by the fact that the very issue where I myself can most claim to know, not merely think, that a particular group of populists is right, is also the very issue where I have the weakest evidence of that group themselves knowing or caring that they are not merely fighting their corner but are also correct about the issue.

New, improved formula European Union!

Thomas Piketty and a bunch of other Europeans have published “Our manifesto to save Europe from itself”.

Our proposals are based on the creation of a budget for democratisation that would be debated and voted on by a new, sovereign European assembly. This will at last enable Europe to equip itself with a public institution capable of dealing with crises in Europe immediately and of producing a set of fundamental public goods and services in the framework of a lasting and solidarity-based economy. The promise made at the treaty of Rome of “harmonisation of living and working conditions” will finally become meaningful.

Are you inspired yet?

Samizdata quote of the day

Whenever I hear people stereotyping based on gender. “Women vote this way”, “Men act in this manner”, I am reminded of the great contrast between Britain’s two women Prime Ministers. Thatcher, won a brilliant renegotiation of the EEC, trounced the unions, denationalized vast swaths of obscene nationalized industries, and was one of the four people instrumental in ending the cold war. May, the other lady from number 10, apparently couldn’t negotiate the purchase of a sausage supper for fifty quid in the local fish and chip shop.

Apparently, it is more to do with the content of your character than the content of your underpants.

Fraser Orr

Truly awful WordPress update broke many things…

Until we can figure out how to fix WordPress’ “helpful” update that over-rides CSS, Samizdata will be looking a bit weird… sorry folks.

And hey WordPress… fuck you.  Maybe time to start looking for an alternative to WordPress.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Thatcher had to see off the fury of miners fighting pit closures, a dispute that dragged on for a year but which failed to mobilise other industries or the public at large. Macron is confronted by a nationwide rebellion that unites people of different regions, classes, occupations and political allegiances. While protestors rampaged through Paris last Saturday there was also violent unrest in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Calais, Marseille, Narbonne, Nantes and many towns. This week, more than 100 high schools have been blockaded by pupils who, emboldened by the gilets jaunes, have relaunched their springtime protest movement against educational reform. Farmers, lorry drivers, construction workers and ambulance staff are also threatening to go yellow.”

“It has been said that the gilets jaunes movement is to Emmanuel Macron what the miners’ strike was to Margaret Thatcher in the mid-1980s. Not in the slightest. While the comparison might please Macron — who, from the moment he was elected, has staked his reputation on his determination not only to reform his country’s economic model but also to stand firm when the inevitable backlash erupted — it hides the fact that what the French President faces is far more serious.”  

Gavin Mortimer, Spectator (£).

Not very liberal

(Apart from the free trade bit)

This is an ad for the Liberal Party going into the 1918 General Election. Note that the Liberal Party split during the First World War with some following Lloyd George and others continuing to follow Asquith. This ad is for the Asquith Liberals. Also note this is not an ideological division; Lloyd George’s Coalition Liberals are standing on much the same platform. Also, also note that the statist rot set in well before the First World War.

In December 1918, this Liberal Party was more or less wiped out with Asquith losing his seat. In subsequent elections the general Liberal vote collapsed even further until by the 1950s the by-then re-unified party had only a handful of MPs.

The Times 5 December 1918 p5